resting on ux laurels

Resting on one’s laurels – to be content with one’s past or present honors, achievements, etc. This is the dictionary.com definition of that phrase according to my trusty iPhone.

I had a conversation with some co-workers today about development cycles and how there is a fundamental need to re-test the user experience of these products at every phase and we may see some sweeping changes come out of those tests at every 3 month cycle.

They looked at me like I was crazy.

I told them that we had a grand opportunity to really hone the UX of this product and iteratively improve upon it mid development.

More looks of disbelief and questions like “Well, we will take care of the UX in phase 1 right?” “How much can really change in 3 months?” “You mean you’re not putting together a rock solid UX out of the gate?”

I assured them that I was going to put together the best UX I could with phase 1, but there are going to be more features and applications added in later phases that may affect the UX. I also mentioned that we will actually get to see how people use this product on a daily basis after phase 1 launches. We will have an opportunity to address some user concerns if we stay on top of it. And finally I talked about the speed at which technology changes and if we adopt new technologies through the life span of this product we may be able to change the UX to accommodate these new technologies. (Multi-touch for example.)

The lights started to get a bit brighter in the room as more people started to understand the concept of iterative UX design. It’s no different than iterative development cycles, I told them.

Companies have a tendency to think that UX happens at the end of the first phase or iteration of their product. From then on it is just “bolting on” features and functionality. Development evolves and moves forward and the next thing you know it has been 2 years and they haven’t touched the UX.

Now instead of introducing rolling changes and enhancements to the user experience and information architecture, the company does a massive overhaul of the entire product to better incorporate all the bolted on features and functionality ripping the UX/IA carpet right out from under the user’s feet.

This is a mistake that happens far too often. It is our jobs to change that mentality. As UX professionals it is our responsibility to change the mindset of “once the UX is designed and developed it is done for good.” We need to show our clients, customers and employers that we can save them money and help increase user satisfaction by re-testing and tweaking the UX at every development cycle.

18. May 2010 by Mike Kornacki
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